After cookies and dresses, brand TJ (Tihar Jail) is all set to leave its imprint on designer footwear made from waste material.
With Tihar Jail authorities roping in a private shoe designer to impart vocational training to inmates in shoe-making, it is just a matter of time when TJ's branded footwear, priced around Rs.500-800, occupies premium space in swanky showrooms and malls.
"We hope we will be able to start a production unit here soon," said Tihar director general B K Gupta, after the launch of a fashion footwear academy on the jail premises Tuesday.
Swati Mehrotra, the force behind Swati Modo Fashion Footwear Academy, said: "Whenever we launch the products, they will be by the name - TJ's by Swati Modo."
"I plan to price them around Rs.500-800 a pair,"she added.
Hari Shyam, 22, a Tihar jail convict, is excited about the new vocation training option available to inmates. "I used to earn Rs.250 a month by repairing shoes before I came to jail. But after undergoing the new footwear designing course, I hope to earn Rs.1000 once I leave the jail."
"I used to repair shoes earlier. But after receiving training here, I am sure I will be able to earn more for myself," Shyam, who has been in the jail since Jan 12, told IANS.
Ramnath Das, who was convicted for murder 10 years ago, said his family has been into shoe-making for years. He is happy that he has got the chance to hone his skills as well share his knowledge with other prisoners.
"I have been here for the last 10 years. The world must have changed by now. I have learnt to stitch ladies' suits and lot more. Now I will make shoes and help others," said Das.
The jail inmates will be taught shoe-making by 24-year-old Mehrotra and her team of three assistants, in a room at the vocational training area at the Tihar jail. She will be training a group of 10 inmates at a time, twice a week.
The walls of the training room adorn photographs of stylish, high-end shoes - exactly like the ones Mehrotra wants her students to create after mastering the art.
"My shoe-making classes at Tihar will be divided into two levels - basic and advanced. As part of the former, the inmates will learn basic cutting and stitching and simple slippers and their designing. Those who perform well, will be shifted to the advanced level to get intensive training in shoe-making, keeping in mind the requirements of the fashion industry," Mehrotra told IANS.
While the basic course will last 12 weeks, an additional eight weeks of training would help the inmates complete the advance level.
Gupta hoped the new vocational training course would add to the options available to inmates. "We try and give vocational training to our inmates so that once they leave the jail after completion of their term, their re-integration with society becomes easier."
"We have been training them in many vocations and as many as 60 NGOs have come forward to help us," said Gupta.
"The selection of prisoners shall be done very carefully. We shall pick those prisoners who may have some idea of the vocation. Even if the batch is small, we want our prisoners to develop their skills and do well in future," said Gupta.
Mehrotra was motivated to facilitate this project by hair stylist Amjad Habib, who has been conducting hair dressing and beautician course at the jail for the last three years.
She has her own fashion label Swati Modo and says a marketing plan for the shoes manufactured at Tihar, will soon be put into place.
"They will be making my designs with waste materials provided by Tihar jail management, who have been very helpful and supportive," she said.
Apart from the new course, inmates at Tihar are already learning how to stitch shirts, trousers, kurtas, baking cakes, cookies, biscuits, breads, weaving rugs and making paper bags among many other things to be able to earn a living once they leave the jail.